B61-12 Completes First Development Flight Test

An F-15E from Nellis AFB, Nev., successfully dropped a B61-12 nuclear gravity bomb developmental test unit at the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada on July 1, marking the completion of the first of three development flight tests, according to a July 8 National Nuclear Security Administration release. The B61-12 Life Extension Program is a joint effort between the Air Force and NNSA aimed at preserving “a critical element of the US nuclear triad,” states the release. “This test marks a major milestone for the B61-12 Life Extension Program, demonstrating end-to-end system performance under representative delivery conditions,” said NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs Don Cook. “Achieving the first complete B61-12 flight test provides clear evidence of the nation’s continued commitment to maintain the B61 and provides assurances to our allies.” Two additional tests are slated for later this calendar year, states the release. The B61-12 eventually will replace existing B61-3, -4, -7, and -10 bombs. The first production example is scheduled for delivery in 2020. (See also Warheads on Target, For Now.)